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Welcome addresses

Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives

Distinguished Participants, Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is with great pleasure that I join you today in officiating in the opening of this the First International Symposium on Tropical Sandy Soils. It is appropriate that this Symposium be held here in Khon Kaen, Northeast Thailand for several reasons as alluded to by the previous speakers.

The Government of Thailand recognizes that agricultural development is a key element in its goal to alleviate rural poverty and enhance the wellbeing of communities that are dependent on farming as their primary source of income. In the Ninth National Economic and Social Development Plan (2002-2006), the Government has set a target of less than 12 percent of the entire population will be afflicted by poverty. This is in line with targets set within the Millennium Development Goals. It is highly probably that this target will be reached under current favourable commodity prices.

There are several emerging issues that we are facing within the agricultural sector in Thailand itself and in the region as a whole. Significant demographic changes have occurred and will continue to occur in Thailand as people move from rural areas to the cities. Consequently there has been a significant decline in the numbers of young people adopting farming as a career. As a result labour-saving and productivity-enhancing technologies will need to be developed and adopted to support agricultural production in the years to come. We need to ensure that as we move to this new stage in agricultures evolution in Thailand that we have all the mechanisms and safe guards in place to ensure the adoption of sustainable and safe, environmentally friendly and economic enhancing agriculturally practices.

Added to this there will be significant increases in the global demands for grains. For example predictions have been made that if the pattern of Chinese food consumption in 2031 emulates current US consumption patterns, it would bring Chinese grain consumption to 1.3 billion tonnes from current levels of consumption of 382 million tonnes. The production of an additional 1 billion tonnes of grain with existing technologies would either require converting a large part of rainforests to agricultural land or the adoption of biotechnology and intensification of chemical agricultural, all with critical environmental implications. Consequently, there will be a requirement to significantly increase production of grain crops to levels never previously observed. These challenges will be even more significant when one considers that these improvements in production will have to occur within an environment with increases in demand for water from sectors other than agriculture, climatic change and declining land resources. These are challenges that you as scientist will need to overcome.

In conclusion I wish you all a fruitful and productive symposium and I do hope you will take the time to experience the hospitality and generosity of the Thai people.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I now declare the Symposium open. Thank you.

Director General of Land Development Department

Excellencies, Distinguished Participants, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I extend a warm welcome to you and hope your stay in Thailand will be memorable and fruitful.

I am particularly pleased that the of Land Development Department was invited to host this first meeting on light textured sandy soils and that Khon Kaen was chosen as the venue for this event.

The Northeast of Thailand has over 9.25 million hectares under agriculture and more than 2.2 million farms making it the foremost agricultural region of Thailand. However, farmers of the region have the lowest farm incomes in Thailand. In this respect the incidence of poverty in the region is approximately 37% of population. The poor physical attributes of the region are the primary cause for the low economic returns of farming enterprises and the high level of poverty in rural communities. The poor soil physical and chemical characteristics, erratic and uneven distribution of rainfall during the summer monsoon and limited irrigation development all contribute to low farm productivity. Unlike the highly productive Vertic soils of the Central Plain of Thailand, the northeast is dominated by deep light textured sandy soils of mixed origin with low nutrient holding capacity; low water holding capacity; and subject to physical degradation such as surface crusting and compaction. Added to this, over 3 million hectares are afflicted by some degree of secondary salinization derived from the mobilization of geological salt. The problem of salinization has been exacerbated by the extensive clearing of climax forests.

With all these soil and water related problems, the northeast is an ideal laboratory to evaluate and test new and innovative approaches in the management of these resources. In deed the Land Development Department has over the past 42 years undertaken significant research and development in addressing these problems. These have included the comprehensive surveying of the regions soils; routine mapping on a 10 year basis of the extent of saline soils; the introduction of innovative methods of addressing soil salinity and the reclamation of saline soils; the introduction of the highly successful ‘Soil Doctor’ test kit to villages to name a few. Some of our research and development will be presented here over the next few days in the form of papers, posters and the mid-symposium field tour.

As we move into the future, the role of the Land Development Department will become critical in addressing the soil and water related issues of the northeast in a development climate that can at best be described as dynamic. These challenges will include increasing the productivity of these marginal soils to ensure enhanced household incomes and more importantly, environmental sustainability and will only be achieved through a functional alliance between scientists, the community and policy makers. In addition, the skills and expertise that the Department has accumulated over the past four decades is and will be of significant benefit and assistance to our neighbours that may not be in the fortuitous position of Thailand.

I wish you all the very best in your deliberations over the next few days and I look forward to receiving the final report of the Symposium. To you all Thank you and Kop Khun krup.

Patrice Cayré, Director of the Department of Living Resources, l’Institut de
Recherche pour le Développement (IRD)

Distinguished Participants, Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure for me, as co-organizer of this Symposium with the Land Development Department, to welcome all the delegates to Khon Kaen today.

IRD has the mandate to carry out strategic research with its partners in developing and emerging countries. It is therefore no surprise that we started to get interested in the properties and management of sandy soils as early as the late 40’. Indeed, sandy soils are widespread in the dry part of sub-Saharan Africa were IRD first developed its activities. There was an urgent need to characterize their characteristics and properties, and to find ways to overcome their limitations. Our researchers addressed this need and in most francophone countries of sub-Saharan Africa were surveyed and mapped in the 60’ and the 70’. Then, in the 80’, IRD started new collaborations in South America. The fate of the sandy soils was again an issue, in particular in Brazil and in French Guyana. As a logical consequence of this long past, our collaborations in the field of soil science, agriculture and environment started in Southeast Asia with projects associated with the sandy soils of Northeast Thailand.

We first started a project with the Land Development Department on the chemical and physical degradation and rehabilitation of the poor acid upland soils in an experimental station located in the Korat region. Further to these initial studies we jointly developed a project on soil salinity in the Khon Kaen region. Soil salinisation is an important issue in Northeast Thailand, as you will discover during this Symposium and the field trip, but also in many other areas around the world. We have lately been involved in a new project, with our two Thai partners (Land Development Department and Khon Kaen University) and in collaboration with the International Water Management Institute (IWMI). This project is focused on the effects of the rapid development of rubber cultivation on the soil and water resources of the region. When I say region, I mean Southeast Asia, which includes not only Thailand, but also Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Southern China. Rubber tree is being extensively planted throughout Southeast Asia in marginal conditions, with drastic effects on the ecology and the livelihood of the farmers. We have decided to launch such a collaborative project because it provides an opportunity to both make good science and develop regional collaboration. Such collaboration would benefit all the countries involved and re-enforce the existing projects. Indeed, IRD has developed activities in Laos and in Vietnam in the last 5 years on the relationships between land use changes and soil properties in mountainous regions, and we hope to start new projects in Cambodia together with IWMI soon.

Thus IRD has given considerable attention to the sandy soils of Southeast Asian in the last ten years, and this was one of the reasons for co-organizing this Symposium. I must stress that all the projects have been based on strong collaboration with the governmental institutions of different countries with the strong support of the French Embassies, that we would like to thank here.

The Symposium will be a great opportunity to give a general overview of the present knowledge on the management of tropical sandy soils and to expose the latest results obtained throughout the world. We expect that it will help identify the research needs and suggest directions. IRD is committed to assist its partners in pursuing research projects on these promising tracks.

I wish you all a very interesting and fruitful Symposium. Thank you for your attention.

FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

The Vice Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives
Governor of Khon Kaen Province
Distinguished delegates and participants
Representatives from partners, donors and NGOs
Ladies and gentlemen,

On behalf of Dr. He Changchui, Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative of FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, I would like to extend a warm welcome to this international symposium Management of Tropical Sandy Soils for Sustainable Agriculture.

Natural resources in the region are subjected to increasing degradation, pressure and competition, mainly due to population growth, urbanization and economic development. The transition from subsistence agriculture towards intensification, commercialization and industrialization in response to increased population and changing consumption patterns increases water pollution and consumption and degrades physical, chemical and biological properties of soil, resulting in lower productivity. Land becomes more vulnerable to natural disasters, in coastal areas, floodplains, rangelands, mountains and rural watersheds, and their impact becomes much more serious.

To address these issues, FAO focuses on activities aiming at improved management and sustainable use of land and water resources for food security and improved livelihoods. Priority areas of the current programme include sustainable land management, soil and water conservation, land resources evaluation and monitoring; integrated plant nutrient management; and soil biodiversity and fertility/productivity improvement.

The degradation and misuse of land and water resources affects the livelihood of rural people, the food security at the national level as well as the socio-economic development of the population in more than 110 countries. Particularly the poorer and marginal population groups and women, those who suffer from inequitable access to natural resources, are most affected while the income gap between rural and urban areas increases.

Land degradation reduces land quality and affects available water resources. An estimated $42 billion in income and 6 million hectares of productive land are lost every year due to land degradation and declining agricultural productivity. About 2000 million hectares of soil has been degraded through human activities. Land degradation is thus closely linked to poverty in developing countries and potential threat to poor people who live in areas with fragile soils and unreliable rainfall. Realizing traditional systems of land use are either breaking down or no longer appropriate due to population pressure, the alternative management and technology options to cope with the problems are needed.

Sandy soils cover some 900 million hectares, mainly in the dry zone. Several million hectares of highly leached sandy soils are found in the perhumid tropics, notably in South America and in parts of Southeast Asia. Small areas of sandy soils may occur in all parts of the world. Many sandy soils are non-used wastelands. Sandy soils in the tropics are chemically exhausted and highly sensitive to erosion and therefore demand cautious management if used for agriculture. Main production constraints are due to its course texture a low water holding capacity and high infiltration rate which represent the main production constraints.Nutrients contents and nutrient retention are normally low, thus causing a low inherent fertility status for agricultural production. However , sandy soils can be very productive when appropriate management is applied and water is available for crop cultivation by means of irrigation or because of a shallow water table.

FAO promotes and assists governments and the international community mitigating land degradation, desertification, deforestation and loss of biodiversity as crucial means for reducing hunger and alleviate poverty. Integrated planning and management of land resources to improve management of natural resources are addressed by developing and testing effective assessment methodology for land degradation. FAO will assist implementing national and regional projects to marshal the extensive knowledge and varied expertise already available worldwide by creating a new, more interactive and comprehensive framework of assessment methods, and by capacity building and testing this framework in real-world situations.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The overall goal of the symposium is to exchangeknowledge and experiences between scientists, extension practitioners and policy makers on land and water degradation and sustained management and remediation of degraded land and water resources.

It gives me much pleasure to see participants from all regions where large areas of sandy soils have been utilized for agriculture, and representatives from a large number of international and regional organizations at this symposium. The task ahead of us is challenging, and no single organization can deal with it effectively alone. FAO is ready and willing to work with partners to undertake the work that lies ahead for integrated approaches for sustainable management of tropical sandy soils.

I am confident that your collective wisdom and expertise provide a firm footing to build this strategy.

I wish you well in your endeavour and look forward to seeing the output of this symposium.

Thank you.

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